Ten

4 Mar

Director: Abbas Kiarostami (2002)

Nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami’s Ten is one of the more unusual pieces of world cinema I’ve seen for a while. And I have seen some strange world cinema. But the unusual nature of Ten does not lie in its content but more the filming technique itself. Filmed entirely with a single fixed camera on the dashboard of a taxi, Ten follows the day of female taxi driver (Mania Akbari) as she meets and philosophises with her customers.

We’ve all been there, sitting in the back of a taxi, behind the pane of glass that transforms the car into a mobile confessional booth. I know I have no doubt divulged more than necessary to a taxi driver, most likely without invitation, but in Tehran, free speech is possibly not the most prevalent, particularly for women. The taxi provides a safe haven, its liberating properties allowing all those who ride in her a place to open up, whether it be the passengers or the driver herself.

Split into ten chapters, we are presented with quite the cross section of Iranian society, ranging from Mania’s (real life) son, Amin, to religious old ladies and drunken prostitutes. As each person opens up, covering every imaginable topic from her own divorce and the new wife of her ex-husband, wearing the hijab and the naivety of women who think their husbands are always faithful. With the underlying but intentionally under developed story of Mania’s divorce and her obvious difficulties dealing with it alone, each of the conversations she has with her female passengers are imbued with a new relevance as we see Mania applying their situations to her own life. The question I found myself asking was whether Mania simply curious or just nosy using these women’s problems to try and solve her own…

Perhaps the most poignant conversation is with the prostitute, drunk and shrieking, Mania simply asks ‘why’ she does it, to which the prostitute replies why she doesn’t do it. Life is trade and women are the retailers. The actors are all untrained giving the film adding extra gravitas and a documentary feel through the unscripted words, as if this is the true, uncensored voice of Iranian women.

Unshakingly exploring the problems faced by Iranian women from marriage to prayer, motherhood to sex, Ten offers access to rarely seen facets of society – the life of women in a strictly patriarchal society and the safety and anonymity of the backseat of a taxi.

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